Prior to 2020, working from home was the exception—not the rule—with the average office staffer working in person 3.8 days a week. In 2023, there was a seismic shift with staff only reporting to the office an average of 1.4 days a week.
Though there was a sudden need for remote working in 2020 and 2021, statistics show that as time is going by, the number of people that work from home (WFH) continues to increase significantly. As the world moves towards a globalized and decentralized workforce, the trend is picking up in momentum as we head into 2024.
For the restaurant industry, remote working offers positive changes and greater opportunities for growth for both on and off-premise sales.
To reach hungry workers, examining demographics, psychographics, and geographic locations of these prospects when creating a marketing plan is key.
In a recent study, 75% of participants that work remotely or at home entirely say they order lunch or dine out at least once during the workweek, with 31% turning to restaurants at least three times a week.
73% of respondents reported that they go out to dinner or order delivery or takeout at least once during the workweek. This is a huge number of prospective customers who are looking for a restaurant on a regular basis.
Narrowing it Down
When you narrow the data more specifically, the study showed that 84% of 18-29 year old participants order or go out to lunch at least once a week, with 45% of younger remote workers relying on restaurants three times a week.
For millennials and younger Gen Xers with families, dinner is significantly more popular than lunch. In fact, 3 ⁄ 4 of all participants in this age group reported going out to dinner or ordering delivery at least once a week. For the 30-44 year old age group, specifically, the number jumps to 80%.
Types of Decentralized Workers
There are several types of decentralized workers, also known as folks who work-from-home (WFH for short), each of which have their own unique work habits and lifestyles. To entice these prospective customers, it’s important to understand this audience as you adapt your marketing strategy.
A digital nomad is someone who works remotely without a fixed location for their business or employment. Along with working remotely with the help of technology, digital nomads travel for various reasons and for different lengths of time.
Digital nomads often work as freelancers, but they can also be full-time employees or contractors.
The number of digital nomads worldwide has reached 35 million in 2023, 47% of which are from the United States.
More Digital Nomad Stats to Consider
16.9 million digital nomads are from the United States.
58% of digital nomads are men.
76% of digital nomads are white.
47% of digital nomads are millennials.
90% of digital nomads have a college education.
Two-thirds of digital nomads work a max of 40 hours/ week.
83% of digital nomads are self-employed.
For restaurants, a digital nomad may or may not be located in the same place at all times, so it’s critical to optimize all of your “near me” searches to cater to this segment’s unique needs. As these workers travel around the world, chances are they’ll land on your doorstep from time to time, so be sure to have your channels optimized so they can find you after a long period out-of-town.
Capture these customers for life by offering target-specific promotions to nomads for when they return to their home base.
The number of people who have chosen to escape the 9 to 5, and permanently join the freelance workforce is growing at astronomic rates. In fact, according to Fiverr, 71% of U.S. workers plan/planned to freelance in some capacity in 2023.
More Freelance Stats to Consider
50% of Gen Z respondents, ages 18-22, work as freelancers.
There are over 1.57 billion freelancers in the world as of 2023.
There are currently 73.3 million freelancers in the U.S.A.
The number of freelancers in the USA is forecasted to reach 90.1 million by 2028.
Google employs more freelancers (54%) than permanent workers (46%).
There are over 12 million registered freelancers on Upwork, making it the biggest platform for freelancers as of 2023.
Remote and Hybrid Workers
The main difference between a hybrid worker and a remote worker is that the hybrid employee spends part of their work week working in the office and part of the week working from home. A remote worker is a staff member who works for a business but performs all duties entirely from a home office.
There has been a changing restaurant landscape with a growing number of restaurants finding success in the suburbs. This is due, in part, to the new hybrid or fully remote workforce that represents a large percentage of people remaining in their suburban oasis instead of traveling to the cities. For many, this translates to venturing into the city only three days a week, normally Tuesday through Thursday. This is important for restaurants, because the needs and eating patterns for these workers change dramatically on any given day, marketing strategies should follow suit.
Just like the office worker, freelancer or digital nomad, the remote worker will likely order takeout and delivery on days when they’re just too busy to break away from their desks. But there will be times when the walls might be closing in or they just need more privacy.
According to a recent survey, as of early 2023, only 59% of participants worked fully onsite. About 28% were in the hybrid workforce, and 12.7% worked remotely full-time. This form of employment is far more common in the professional and business services sectors.
Creating a Remote Worker Alternative Space
The more folks working remotely, the more they will need alternative places to work. Folks with roommates or young families at home may seek the solitude of a working space that gives them a chance to breathe, focus, and attend online meetings.
In fact, in a study conducted by OpenTable, almost 50% of all remote workers report spending some of their time every week working from cafes, diners, or coffee shops.
If you’ve been putting off offering your restaurant as a remote working space because of the perceived hassle and expense, there’s good news: remote workers don’t ask for much.
What Customers Want When Choosing an Alternate Work Space
1 - Fast, Free, Reliable Wifi : This may seem like a no-brainer, but never underestimate the power of the internet. Remote workers need WiFi that’s free, fast, and easy to access. That means no complicated login screens and no limited timed access.
Free, limitless and fast connectivity is what remote workers want. Not only can it get more people in the door, and keep them coming back, it also serves as easy word-of-mouth advertising. When one friend tells another—or better yet, posts on their social media—“hey, they have great coffee, fast wifi and lots of outlets,” the word gets around, amounting to increased foot traffic and sales.
2 - Overabundance of Outlets: Having plenty of outlets through your dining area might seem like a small thing but it’s huge. Remote workers will actually leave a restaurant and seek-out another if the available tables aren’t in close proximity to an outlet to charge their laptops and other devices. A small investment in additional outlets will electrify your client base—pun intended.
3 - Comfortable Seating: While plenty of comfortable chairs and small sofas are greatly appreciated, there’s no need to go out and spend a fortune on new furniture. In fact, the best furnishings can be found at thrift stores or online marketplaces. Your customers will not only appreciate the nod to environmental repurposing, but as long as they’re clean, the cozier and more homey, the better.
4 - Peace and Quiet: A restaurant is not a library afterall, but aside from the white noise of dishes and glasses clanging, quiet is something remote workers value, appreciate, and require. The good news is that most remote workers come prepared and equipped with headphones that block out external sound. Just try to be sure that the overall atmosphere isn’t overly noisy or it could send someone away before they sit down. Anything you can do to assist in making a calm, quiet atmosphere, the better.
Add a few oversized wing chairs or find nooks and crannies to add extra seating. Consider adding small booths or unusual seating to unused storage areas, or under stairwells. Get creative because every extra seat is another customer.
Keep any background music low and slow. Guests can listen to music in their own headphones if they so choose, but let them create their own audio track.
Consider moving loud appliances like blenders to the back of the house. It’s one of those things that you don’t notice until you’re annoyed. It’s a small change that will have a big effect.
If you want to encourage diners to stay for a while, ask your servers to have a quick chat with them when they first sit down. Train them to ask if they’d prefer not to be disturbed.
Use tech like contactless tableside ordering so customers can place orders themselves without servers interrupting their concentration.
5 - Proper Lighting: Lighting is probably the most effective way to give a space a vibe that is conducive to remote working. Unlike the bright fluorescence of office lighting, opt for lighting that feels more like home.
Benefits of Opening your Business to Remote Workers
If you still need some convincing that remote working is a growing opportunity for your business, here are some benefits you may not have considered.
Increased foot traffic during traditionally slow hours like after the breakfast rush or before the lunch crowds. Be prepared to staff appropriately to serve this new customer base at times that are exactly opposite of the way it used to be.
Word-of-mouth will ramp up a new customer base.
Regulars will appreciate from your new focus on remote working spaces. Perhaps a typical lunch guest will come in after dinner for some coffee and quiet work time away from the kids.
Creating a dedicated work area separate from the rest of the dining area encourages businesses to make your restaurant a regular meeting location.
Creates a vibrant ambiance. Like a bustling New York cafe, you’ll add a sense of spark and new life to your space.
Adds a new perspective to passers-by. More remote workers don't just ramp up business, the sudden burst of energy by adding a coworking space will be visible to people who once just walked by your restaurant. The actual vibrancy itself will act as a billboard inviting new customers to come inside and see what’s new!
As decentralized workforce becomes increasingly woven into the fabric of the global economy, restaurants that carve alternative work spaces into their dining rooms and optimize online menus to cater to the needs to today's untraditional workers will benefit and profit from this new normal.
By Eileen Strauss